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Toyota and Tesla Team Up to Make a RAV4 EV

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author photo by Autotrader October 2010

A recent alliance between Japanese automaker Toyota and prominent electric vehicle-manufacturer Tesla is causing some big bucks to trade hands. In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Tesla revealed it will be paid $60 million to help develop an all-electric version of Toyota’s RAV4 SUV.

According to the filing, Toyota will pay Tesla the multi-million-dollar sum in exchange for the development of several important components to turn the RAV4 electric. Such components include a suitable battery and transmission, appropriate software, an electric motor, and a “power electronics module.”

“We’re a supplier, but a tightly-integrated supplier, and it’s a co-development,” said Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk in an interview last month with Reuters. “So Toyota engineering and Tesla engineering are working very closely together.”

Following the filing – which calls the deal a “Phase 1 Contract Services Agreement” – the next step for the automakers will be to agree on a timetable for the finished product. Undoubtedly, development will begin quickly, as Toyota has announced the RAV4 EV will hit dealers sometime in 2012.

While $60 million is a notable sum for Tesla, it only adds to Toyota’s already significant investment in the California-based automaker. In July, Toyota purchased $50 million in Tesla common stock, leaving the Japanese automaker in control of a significant portion of Tesla – though still an undisclosed minority. The July deal also included selling Tesla a portion of Toyota’s southern California manufacturing facility, where the companies will join forces to build the RAV4 EV. But despite Toyota’s stake in Tesla, Musk wasn’t ready to say the companies would be linked forever.

“Long term, I think our relationship with Toyota is a function of how good a supplier we are,” said Musk.

Apart from Toyota, Tesla’s outlook on the future can best be described as busy. The automaker plans to release its all-electric Model S sedan – also to be made at the former Toyota plant in Southern California – sometime in mid-2012, with a family of electric vehicles planned by the end of 2013.

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Toyota and Tesla Team Up to Make a RAV4 EV - Autotrader